I don’t know if you are like me but when it’s time to start something new, I always feel a little intimidated by the blank page. I’ve tried it both ways; by writing a single scene with no real direction and also by preplanned characters and plot. Either way, I have to come up with an original idea that can become a story. I understand that you can find ideas from all around you, newspapers, magazines, television, eaves dropping while at the mall, book store, PTA meeting, doctors office, in your cubicle at work, in the restroom, at lunch, and from your dreams, to name a few. It isn’t that there are not enough ideas out there but, I guess I have a problem with organizing them. I am working on that. In the meantime, I found a book that is already organized with hundreds of ideas.
I found this book amongst the library of writing reference books on my shelves that I’d forgotten about. It’s Story Starters by Lou Willett Stanek, PH.D. He’s also written So You Want to Write a Novel and Writing Your Life. Story Starters is a little paperback and I think that might have something to do with it getting lost on my shelves. I had been struggling with coming up with a story idea and nothing felt right, so I picked this book up and started flipping through it. After reading the first chapter, I noticed that at the end was a list of story prompts. I pulled out a pad of paper and started copying down the ideas that called to me. Finally I came upon an idea and I just took off with it. A page and a half later, I realized that I had found my next story. I am still in the beginning stages of this story but at least now I have an idea and a start.
If you want to check this book out – here is a list of the chapter titles and descriptions.
After the introduction, there are 18 chapters.
1 – What If – Establishing the Where and When. Developing Your Character, Show, Don’t Tell, Creating the Plot
2. Twice and Thrice-Told Tales – Allusions Lazily Used as Shortcuts, Stock Characters and Archetypes, Not What You Expect
3. Universal Themes and Symbols- Physical Descriptions: When to Provide Them
4. Overheard and Observed- Conflict
5. Current Events – Inherent Dangers in using Real-Life Events, Inherent Dangers in using Real-Life People
6. Omnipresent Family Affiliations- Motivation
7. Animals as Minor Characters – Naming Your Character
8. Objects to Start a Story – Symbols
9. Settings to Start a Story- Time and Place
10. Sports – Language to Fit the Story
11. Memories – Flashbacks
12. Art and Artists – Descriptive Details
13. Music and Musicians – Tension and Suspence
14. Professions and Just Plain Jobs- Point of View
15. Travel- Cause and Effect
16. Food – Figurative Language
17. Clothes That Make the Story – Description That Doesn’t Stop the Action
18. Words – Climax and Conclusion
My copy is dated 1998. The ISBN is 0-380-79552-3. If it is out of print and unavailable at the usual places, I found a great website. www.paperbackbooks.com. You can share books and earn credits to receive books from other members. It only costs the postage to mail something out to another member. And for a small donation to the site, you can print the postage and mail without driving to the post office and waiting in line, just drop it in a drop box. You can set up a wish list and as soon as someone adds your requested book, you get an e-mail. As a writer I want to promote the sale of new books but this is a great place for out of print books.
Enjoy and happy writing!